20/08/2008 - 22:00

Star performer’s new venture

20/08/2008 - 22:00

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Although Star Anise owner David Coomer won't reveal the name of the North Perth venue he's planning to open as a new tapas bar, the restaurateur says he's just waiting for the green light from council before starting the project.

Star performer’s new venture
BIG PLANS: David Coomer is aiming to open a tapas bar in North Perth, and is one the lookout for new premisses for Star Anise.

Although Star Anise owner David Coomer won't reveal the name of the North Perth venue he's planning to open as a new tapas bar, the restaurateur says he's just waiting for the green light from council before starting the project.

And while basing a hospitality business in Western Australia presents challenges in terms of supplies, staff and available venues, the Sydney-born restaurateur believes Perth is a niche market that remains largely untapped by the wider restaurateur fraternity.

"I don't know why some of the big players in the eastern states don't realise how potentially lucrative the market is over here," Mr Coomer says.

After 10 years of running the high-end Star Anise, located in Shenton Park, Mr Coomer says he's excited to explore the potential of the Perth market by opening a tapas bar.

The new venue will be different type of outlet for him to showcase his cooking skills, in a more casual dining style.

"You just do it [tapas]; you make it taste good and it's pretty much ingredients-driven," Mr Coomer told Gusto.

"Here [Star Anise], I wouldn't drop a jar of marinated octopus on the table or six slices of home made chorizo, or two barbecued quails with a dust of cumin on it and a wedge of lemon on the side, but in a tapas bar this is great.

"And that's food I cook at home, and I like cooking when I don't have to think about it. Here, we have to be a little bit clever. People have that level of 'dazzle me' expectation.

"After you've been doing this [Star Anise] kind of food for quite a while, you want to get another outlet just to do that sort of stuff."

Well aware that tapas bars have become fashionable of late, Mr Coomer says no-one has really hit the mark when it comes to providing a true version of the traditional Spanish tapas in Perth.

"I went to a sort of a tapas place in Perth, and they asked us which tapas menu we'd like, the 11 course one or the 16-course one. I kind of went, 'What? Can you just give me the menu and I'll order food, you bring it out, and I'll drink wine and when I want some more food I'll order another plate and another glass of wine'.

"That's what tapas is, that sort of 'bring it on', it's like eating yum cha; we get yum cha and we understand that.

"It's a lack of knowledge and understanding of the market, it's more 'look at me look how clever I am', rather than go 'come to my restaurant, eat some nice food and enjoy yourself'."

Mr Coomer believes Perth has been lacking that middle-of-the-road market providing dishes ranging from $5 to $30, such as are available at the popular Melbourne-based Movida and Bar Lourina.

After the Star Anise building was sold about a year ago, and with the restaurant's lease running out in two years, Mr Coomer says he won't be staying in the current premises and therefore is looking for a new venue.

"We'll set this little place up [the tapas bar] as soon as we can, get it going and get ourselves a bit of breathing space should we need a bit of time to find another location for Star Anise," he says.

Mr Coomer wants to stay in the western suburbs, where most of its clientele is based, but he finds it hard to come across a spot that equals the atmosphere of the Onslow Road venue.

"That's the problem with Perth, there's a real lack of those little pockets, with some nice old character buildings," he says.

"Here [current premises] it may not be the best design for a restaurant, but it's kind of like an old shoe; it's quirky, it's comfortable, people feel at home here."

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